Where I Am From…

Where I Am From…

When I tell people where I am from in California, I usually say Chico. Most people associate Chico with Chico State as it at one time made Playboy’s list of top party schools and has been a reputation that has stuck. Some associate Chico as the “City of Trees” thanks to all the different tree varieties that can be found in our area. We have John Bidwell to thank for that as well as to enjoy Bidwell Park which makes up nearly 17% of the city and is home to one of the nation’s largest municipal parks.  Others may know Chico for many other reasons. I love the downtown atmosphere and enjoyed all the fruits of living near a town of 120,000, my parent’s business is located in Chico, and I am even an alumni of Chico State but the truth is… that’s not where I called “home”. It’s easy to say I am from Chico, because well, it’s the closest “big city” to where I really spent most of my time.

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The places where I spent my time, my old stomping grounds, that place where I know all the back roads, where I grew up and got into trouble in is a town 10 miles to the south of Chico. It’s a town called Durham. But unless you are from the area, nobody knows where Durham is. Durham is a community of about 5,000 and reminds me a lot of the community I live in now, Ashley. Sure the populations are far being similar but they share similarities. The share the same struggles that made up a small town. For example. it is extremely tough for a small business to thrive in Durham when you are 10 miles away from a bigger city. Ashley, North Dakota is 80-90 miles away from any big city and they have their fair share of the same issues.

I actually grew up halfway in between Chico and Durham and so for half of my school career, I went to Chico schools. In the 6th grade, once my brother started school, I moved to Durham. I had already known some of the people and had friends there thanks to being involved in 4-H even before I transferred schools. It didn’t take long for me to become an official “Durham-ite”. And now I am proud to say that I am a 10 year Durham Parkview 4-H member and 2 year Project Leader, a graduate of Durham High School, as well as volunteered my time at many community events like Rotary Dinners, Cemetery cleanups, and other events.

Durham, much like Ashley, has its small town drama and ups and downs, but when it comes down to it, the people who live in Durham are fierce supporters of their small town. They are willing to step up and volunteer and their community organizations thrive thanks to that. Much of the community of Durham is made up of farmers… both rice and nut farmers. My childhood home is basically surrounded by almond orchards on two sides. When I drove to school in Durham or the other way to Chico, I drove through orchards almost the entire way. And when I headed even more south, I got into rice country. 

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almond orchard down the street from my childhood house

This is where I felt at home. Whenever I needed to think, I got in the car and drove. Endless miles of trees or rice flooded fields. Dirt roads. Off the beaten path. I experienced my version of “the country” and “living rural”. I got to see wildlife as the rice fields were home to the many ducks and geese that travel the Pacific Flyway. These were the places I really felt alive.

Moving away and to North Dakota has given me the opportunity and a whole new appreciation for those places that honestly, I took for granted when I live there. Our last trip to California for Thanksgiving, we got out and got to sight see those places. We got to explore, take the back roads, see wildlife, and even catch some rice production in action. This is where I am from. Here are some of my favorite places to go that you won’t find in on Wikipedia or in a tourist guide.

the turn in the road where I got my first speeding ticket. I took this road every single day. It connects Durham, my house, and Chico

the turn in the road where I got my first speeding ticket.

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The Midway. If you live in Durham, you travel this road every single time you need to head North to Chico. It’s a sight to behold in the Fall when the leaves change. Out of towners and people who don’t live in Durham view this road as dangerous, as it has taken many lives. Those of us who traveled it every day learn to respect the road and that speeding just isn’t worth it when it comes to your pocketbook and even more importantly, your life.

Our local taco wagon.. the best around!

Our local taco wagon.. the best around!

Butte County California-7You can’t miss the four way stop in Durham, in fact, it’s somewhat of a landmark for the people who live in the area. Made up of the taco wagon (as we refer to it), the Durham Country Market (we call it the DCM), the Community Calendar sign, and some local businesses, the four corners is the epicenter of the Durham Community. Around rush hour, when school gets out, you can expect your wait time to get through the stop sign to be longer than usual. If you grew up in or around Durham, you have fond memories of the DCM and the Taco Wagon. Whenever I visit, I always make it a point to hit up the taco wagon as it is my favorite in the Chico and Durham area.

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Butte County California-3-2If you head through Durham and go west, you will eventually hit the Sacramento River. Ord Bend (pictured above) was typically where we would launch the boat and take a family fishing trip. I have many fond memories of salmon and striper (striped bass) fishing with my dad. It was so peaceful being out on the water and plus when the fish are biting, there’s nothing like the thrill of a big salmon on the end of your line.

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Butte County California-27To the south of Durham, you get into rice country. Nothing but field after field of rice production. And you don’t even have to get off the beaten path to check it out, if you take Interstate 5 through California, you will come upon rice production as it spans all the way East from I-5 to south of Durham. While traveling to the South and along the Interstate, on clear days, you will get a great view of the Sutter Buttes (pictured above). If you are lucky enough to be traveling through the area during rice production, you may see depending on the time of the year, farmers out working. I have watched combine after combine work right along the Interstate during harvest time. In the photo above, the farmer is using what’s called a “stomper” which incorporates the leftover rice straw into the soil and helps it break down.

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And of course with the rice fields comes wildlife. Traveling south you will come across several wildlife preserves where you can spot anything from ducks and geese to egrets and herons. The Pacific Flyway brings in hordes of ducks and geese to the area and during the winter months, these preserves are packed. When we were visiting last, my husband and I drove out to Grey Lodge which was just gorgeous. I couldn’t believe the amount of ducks and geese that were already there and winter hasn’t even started yet.

I love where I live in North Dakota.. I love our town, the people, the sights, the friends I’ve made.. But there will always be a special place in my heart for my hometown in Durham and the surrounding areas. Some days my heart hurts a little more than others and even after over a year of living here, I still get homesick. When you spend 20+ years in one place and a place you vowed you never would leave, leaving that place is hard. I still tear up while looking at some of the photos and having to leave after visiting is hard. But each and every time it gets easier, I cry a little less, and I look forward to being home here in North Dakota.

Where are you from? What are some things that a tourist guide wouldn’t tell you? Have you ever left that area?


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  1. December 17, 2013 / 10:26 am

    What a cool post! The almond orchard photo is fascinating. My hometown is around 5,500 and definitely a farming/industrial community. And 4H… I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty ……. 🙂
    I love this idea for a blog post, and yep, I am going to swipe it. 😉 It is now added to my list of Topic Ideas in my trusty ol iPhone.

  2. December 17, 2013 / 11:06 am

    Awesome post! I enjoyed your reflections and the amazing photos to complement them!
    I grew up in Bermuda until age 11 (definitely a tourist destination, although there is so much that most tourists never visit). Then I moved to a Canadian town of about 2500 people which also suffers like Durham as it is about 6 miles away from a large town of some 20000. I’ve since left for studies and work, but I think my heart will always be divided between Bermuda and that small town.

  3. Stefani Amos
    December 17, 2013 / 8:27 pm

    Beautiful pictures!! I’ve never seen almond or rice fields! Im from Iowa so all we have is corn, corn, some more corn and maybe some bean fields! Small town living I wouldn’t change it for anything!

  4. Jenna
    December 20, 2013 / 11:25 am

    I know of Chico because of Aaron Rodgers! The photos of your hometown are stunning. I grew up in western Wisconsin and moved to western Minnesota a year ago. The landscapes are vastly different but I do enjoy the small town life over being in a metro area. It may not be the most convenient but it definitely has its perks.

    • December 21, 2013 / 12:46 pm

      Gosh. The Internet makes it a small world doesn’t it!? Chico is very proud of Aaron Rodgers! We all became Packers fans. Lol. It is such difference landscape just from CA to ND but I love them both.

  5. May 6, 2014 / 4:07 pm

    Awe. I’m glad you shared your story of where you come from. It’s very interesting to know on how you showed everything in california where your grew up. Oh, I love the photos you posted and how I wish I had that same story where I was able to enjoy that beautiful place. Thank you for sharing this!

    • May 7, 2014 / 7:28 pm

      April – Thank you so much!! I have a post about my NEW home of Ashley in the works and as soon as I can get some great photos around town! So many awesome old buildings!

  6. Sheila (Manderfield/Gaeth) Oswalt
    September 14, 2014 / 4:25 pm

    Hi jenny,
    I too moved from a small farming community, but in NE Iowa. I grew up on a dairy farm along with 8 siblings. Thirty years ago I landed in Chico to work at Enloe. Then moved to Durham to raise my 2 boys and give them a similar childhood experience. We lived on Holland ave. (@ the tree fort) and even spent seven years on the “worm farm.” Eventually I ended up next to a walnut orchard on the Midway.
    I just returned from a visit back home. It’s a lot like Durham, just different crops. I love them both. Thanks for sharing.
    Btw, your dad makes the best meats…for the women’s fellowship dinners. God bless you.

    • September 15, 2014 / 1:31 pm

      It’s a small world. I actually spent a lot of time on that ranch/farm as I dated Shawn for some time. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading! I love visiting Durham and Chico. It’s changing so rapidly. And I must say, it’s a weird feeling to experience those changes from the outside. I will always have a special place in my heart for the Northern CA valley.

      p.s. I miss Pastor Sam all the time. He’s such a wonderful man and pastor!

  7. Wendy
    September 14, 2014 / 10:23 pm

    Your wonderful stories about Durham have me all teary-eyed! I also grew up in Durham, living in the same house for the first 22 years of my life, next to an almond orchard (pronounced “ammon”, of course 😉 I graduated from DHS as well, and remember going to Grey Lodge on elementary school field trips. And Durham Market! My mom took us there everyday in the summer after swimming at the Durham Pool. So many wonderful hometown memories! I miss driving into town on the Midway in the spring and going over the overpass with the sea of blooming almond orchards below. Thanks for sharing!!

    • September 15, 2014 / 1:33 pm

      Yes! Ammon! Thank you for sharing such beautiful memories! Durham will always have a special place in my heart. It’s honestly such a treasure and a wonderful community of people. I owe so much to that place for forming me into the woman I am today. From my high school teachers to 4-H and the rest of the community. Thank you for stopping by and sharing with me!

  8. Julie
    September 18, 2014 / 8:59 pm

    I grew up in Durham on Mesa Road (my mom still lives there) and graduated from DHS in 1983. So many wonderful memories there. It was the perfect place to grow up. Thanks for sharing your personal story and beautiful pictures.

    • September 19, 2014 / 9:15 am

      I agree, it was the perfect place to grow up! Thank you so much for shopping by and for commenting! I apprecaite it!

  9. LaRae Eicher Cross
    September 21, 2014 / 9:14 pm

    Durham graduate, Class of 1984. Member and officer of Durham Parkview 4-H. More than that… recipient of many hugs from the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Dewey Family, at Neighborhood Church. Just have to say, THANK YOU for this article. Very glad that a fellow “Durhamite” led me to your site.

    • September 22, 2014 / 2:04 pm

      Awesome! So glad to be able to reach so many people with this post! I take it you knew my Grandpa as he was instrumental to establishing Neighborhood. I wish I would have known him, he passed away when I was just born. I have heard from many, many people he was a wonderful man.

  10. Julie S
    November 6, 2015 / 9:50 pm

    Hi Jenny. Thanks so much for this loving dedication to your childhood home. It’s beautifully done. I found it researching the Durham area, working on family history. I just learned it was the last known residence of my great-grandfather (mom’s mom’s dad) before he passed in 1960 when he was struck by a car crossing a street in Paradise, CA in Oct 1960 at the age of 80. All I know is that he lived on Midway (somewhere) in Durham, I’m trying to learn exactly where, and I came across your site. I, too, am a native Californian, though I’ve lived in the Midwest (Cincinnati!) for close to 30 years now, and I miss California as you do. Thanks for your photos and memories!

    • November 8, 2015 / 5:23 pm

      Hi Julie,
      Thank you for reaching out to me! I wish I could give you more information on your great-grandfather! If you ever get the chance to go out and visit Durham, do it! It’s still such a quaint little town.